Definition of ‘affirmative action’

According to the definition given by Webster’s New World Dictionary, affirmative action is the concept which corrects the effects of discrimination in the education or employment of people of certain minority groups. Affirmative action is really meant to abolish all kinds of discrimination in education and employment places so that people belonging to all race, ethnicities and groups experience equal and impartial opportunities and consideration in their educational institutions and employment places.

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“Affirmative action was designed to give qualified minorities a chance to compete on equal footing with Whites” (Chappell, 1995) Affirmative action is really meant to establish equality even though it later (upon implementation) resulted into more discrimination. Certain places where affirmative action was implemented it brought about serious favoritism towards certain groups while establishing equal opportunities.

Historical background of ‘affirmative action’

An Executive Order 11246 was issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson asking all the federal contractors to implement affirmative action to raise the number of employees they recruit from the minority group. President also formed the Office or Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) which did a good research on Affirmative action to locate its exact meaning and intention. This order required employers with government contracts a category that includes most major corporations as well as many small businesses, banks and other financial institutions, and colleges and universities – to have affirmative-action programs

Debate points

Does affirmative action is really helpful in ending the discrimination in work places? Does it contribute for equal opportunity in work place or does it produced only reverse discrimination?

Thesis statement

The interest groups who are the minorities insist affirmative action is needed to reduce employment discrimination. They provide factual data which shows current circumstance of employment discrimination. On the other hand, the opponents to affirmative actions contend this principle cause reverse discrimination.

The negatively privileged minority in United States are quite happy with the implementation of affirmative action as they are over privileged in the education and employment fields because of the affirmative action. Let us assume these supporters of affirmative action as Group A. Group A is constituted by the black minorities (African Americans and other minority black groups). Women also come under this group.

There is another group, Group B with a different opinion. They are of the opinion that even though affirmative action is really meant to establish equality it later (upon implementation) resulted into more discrimination. Certain places where affirmative action was implemented it brought about serious favoritism towards certain groups while establishing equal opportunities. Group B is constituted by the majority whites, politicians and other groups who are not satisfied with the implementation of affirmative action.

Group A is happy with the outcome of affirmative action as it helped them to attain a better hold in employment and educational arenas. They would never have achieved this if there had been nothing likes affirmative action. According to Group A Affirmative action is good decision to strive for equality, indiscrimination and inclusiveness. They argue that is really an insurance measure to guarantee that the best person (qualified and talented) would receive first consideration in job and educational matters. They consider affirmative action as the best method to eliminate discrimination and problems.

For them Affirmative action is the one and only panacea for all the discrimination problems in America. Group A constituted by black minorities give the testimony about their status in the nation. They say that the white institutions are found to be reluctant to serve people of color (non-white minority). These institutions function on the basis of race and operate on the policy of segregation. They are of the opinion that institutional racism is followed in all organizations, public bodies, educational institutions (universities) and corporations. They are sadly testifying that institutional racism influences almost all policies, processes and policies (in both governmental and public institutions).

According to group A, educational institutions give preference to superior people in the case of admissions. In universities and colleges, ethnicity and racial status also matters for the selection of students. Applicants belonging to our race are given least preference in providing jobs also. They say that people belonging to superior race were getting high preference in all governmental and non-governmental dealings before the introduction of affirmative action. They say they are often denied justice during court matters also. Law enforcement officers would not show much interest on their complaints it seems. Group A considers affirmative action as a real boon to them as they feel more privileged through it.

They say that affirmative action has equalized the opportunities of blacks and whites. They are against the argument of Group B that affirmative action creates favoritism. Supporters of affirmative action argue that it is really a boon to the disadvantaged section that represents the disadvantaged backgrounds. They argue that such people should be given consideration as their heritage has suffered from numerous kinds of discriminations (Women’s Answer to Special Preferences Not All Affirmative).

People who support affirmative action include the African Americans, Latinos, Hispanics, Indians, Black Caribbean’s, Asians, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islanders, American Indians or Alaska Native Black African, and women belonging to the negatively privileged group. They constitute the interest groups who think that affirmative action has been successful in eliminating employment discrimination. Politicians, minority ethnic groups and other underprivileged people are happy with the outcome of affirmative action.

The interest group supporting affirmative gives the following arguments. They say that affirmative action is good for all candidates by compromising for the existing racism. According to them, the diverse student body (whites + black) makes a better learning environment (mixed environment). For them affirmative action is a good action that would level the field for both groups. They say that affirmative action do not makes any discrimination and it eliminates preferential treatment by inclusion.

These interest groups say that affirmative action would compensate for all the biases present in certain institutions and standardized tests. Women are extremely happy with affirmative action as they enjoy much privilege through it. The status of women had increased significantly because of affirmative action (according to these particular interest groups). The percentage of women-owned business has increased by 57% since 1982.

Value Claims of African Americans, Hispanics, Blacks and other Groups

Ÿ “Affirmative action is essential to guarantee people of color, minorities, and women equality in employment and education.”

Race- and gender-inclusive policies turn tax consumers into tax producers. A diversified corporate America is better able to compete in this increasingly globalized economy. Let us not be misled: Increasing the educational and employment opportunities for a majority of Americans is good for the nation and good for our future.

Ÿ  America believe that affirmative action is at the root of our economic distress, but The real culprits are NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] and GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade]–destructive economic policies that have sent our jobs across the border and overseas to cheaper labor markets, leaving our plants closed, without a plan to retrain our workers and invest in our economic future.

Ÿ  Affirmative action does not mandate reverse discrimination. These policies merely require women and people of color to be included in the applicant pools of universities, workplaces, and unions. If an unqualified applicant is hired or promoted over a qualified one in the name of diversity, this is discrimination, and it is actionable in court just as it is under all other circumstances

Group B however says that affirmative action was found to be multifaceted and was vaguely defined. They say that it is a quote-based system intended for various minority sections. However, affirmative action is yet to accomplish its original purpose or intention of establishing a society which never discriminates any person on the ground of his or her race or ethnic identity. The goal of equality intended by affirmative action did not cross its infant stage.

The politicians in group B say that affirmative action which blindly tries to help black people is that it violates 14th Amendment of the Constitution and the Civil Rights laws. It is said that these kind of special privileges disturb the level playing field and invite preferential treatment on understanding non-white minorities because of the color of their skin. Group B says that affirmative action has invited long debates and continued tension alone and is no longer applicable. But after few years of its implementation, it was found was it was just a partial, temporary and defective remedy for a society that is marginalized and highly disenfranchised for centuries.

Group B says that affirmative action did not restructure society to bring equality and instead accelerated the discrimination problems and invited the problem of reverse racism also. According to them, affirmative action stigmatized and underestimated the credentials of the actually qualified minorities (Matthew, 1996). Affirmative action devalued or underestimated their talent and qualification. Since the qualifications, character, and culture of non-white people were always in question in United States, special racial categories or privileges (quota) really created a doubt in the Group B whether these people are really qualified for this position or are they present there because of the special racial privilege that is assigned to them. Group B says that affirmative action programs encouraged the recruitment of unqualified people.

Group B argues that because of the strict implementation of affirmative action, talented people belonging to other race are not given equal opportunity in the required fields. For example if there exists one vacancy in a particular office and if more than one people belonging to different races are present, it would be difficult to determine to whom the post should be given. According to the affirmative action, the post should be offered to the person belonging to the inferior race and others can be given only a second consideration. It is however an open fact that every job need the best person to perform it. Qualification, talent and abilities make a candidate appropriate for a particular post.

They ask how a job can be offered to a person because of his color when several other who are suitable for the job have applied. They wonder how unfair it will be if the application of the suitable most candidates is rejected. They ask how this discrimination would finally lead to equality. Group B strongly argue that affirmative action programs brought the problem of reverse discrimination in several places. For example, certain male applicants who were really qualified were denied jobs as the first consideration was given to woman applicants and other applicants who belong to minorities. This is also a serious kind of discrimination as the applications of the deserved candidates were declined.

This kind of reverse discrimination has appeared in the American society and has lead to the declining of the quality of officials in various offices. Offices and companies have hired people of minority group who occupy the seat only because they were preferred in the selection processes. Politician supporters of Group B say that quotas are not only unfair, but extremely expensive for our economy. The State Department has studied and concluded that affirmative action is very much complicated as assigning quotas is highly discriminative.

The state department has hired large number of people from the minorities group by lowering the recruitment standards for equalizing the work force. The result was that white people who received high percentages were not selected and instead black people who had just passed their examination were given offer letters. This eventually affected the quality of the work force. All these resulted again into the problems of reverse discrimination (Kevin, 1995).

The interest groups who oppose affirmative action include whites, men and others who were not happy with the extra privilege affirmative action gives to females and blacks. The quota rule troubles institutions and other recruitment boards as they are often compelled to recruit based on the quota system. This does not allow them to recruit the right people. Their arguments against affirmative action are that Affirmative action results in discrimination based upon race and skin color. They say that affirmative action never result in true diversity. Men argue that it is absolutely unfair to judge candidates on the basis of gender. Whites say that race should not be criteria for employment.

Value claims of Men, whites and others who oppose affirmative action

According to a gallop poll taken in 1995 July (Roberts 1995), most of the Americans opine that affirmative action is no more useful. According to Roberts (1995), a Gallup Poll taken in July of 1995 shows that Americans agree that quotas are no longer useful. Americans oppose employment quotas by a margin of 63% to 35% and 68% opposed and 22% in the backward community favored quotas (Roberts, 1995, p. 23).  People of America today are not interested in quota system as it did not implement what it really intended. According to Roberts, it is “as temporary bootstrap measures to help blacks advance faster” (Roberts & Stratton, 1995, p. 41).

As long as the State Department has its problems with quotas, economy growth becomes stagnant. An article in the National Review (1993) said that “in 1991 the direct and indirect cost of quotas…amounted to between $112 and $115 billion.  While the ‘opportunity cost’…amounted to at least 4 percent of 1991 GNP (Counting Cost, 1993, p. 18).”  The government itself had to experience the ill effects of Affirmative Action in few cases.

Congress researched the student loan defaults all in all the states. Their reply to the issue was to stop the funding of federal loans to “colleges whose students tended to default.  However, ‘historically black colleges and universities are exempted,’…creating a minority right to default” (Roberts & Stratton, 1995, p. 44).  Here it would be fun to note that both black and white tax payers have to pay for these defaulted loans given to these colleges. Catherine Yang says in Business Week that says that affirmative action programs are no longer good to America. Yang states that “the US market and labor pool is increasingly diverse-so a company’s workforce must reflect that diversity to succeed” (Yang,1996,p.51).

The whites who oppose affirmative action says that affirmative action has replaced discrimination against women and minorities with discrimination against white men–reverse discrimination. Even though the equal employment opportunity sound good in principle, in practice they have come to conceal equally unjust, equally harmful, and probably unconstitutional practices that give preference to some at the expense of others. Moreover, the

Preferential policies have added fuel to racial tensions by incurring the resentment of those not in protected groups, those who are expected to pay the costs of reparation despite never having engaged in discriminatory practices themselves.


As far as I read my sources, both groups of people have each own reason and truth to support their opinion. In my opinion, we have to grasp the situation and effectiveness of affirmative action, and then we can change the policy little bit. According to me, both these groups are wrong in their perceptions. Facts show that affirmative action has not made much difference in the discrimination prevailing in America.

Facts prove that African Americans represent 12.4%, and Latinos represent 9.5%. Yet in the labor market: followings. Moreover, 69% of all doctors are white men, 22% are white women, 4% are Black, and only 5% are Latino. Seventy percent of all lawyers are white men, 24% are white women, 3% are Black, and 3% are Latino. In Texas alone, 81% of all CEOs, executives, and business managers are white, 11% are Latino, 6% are Black, while Asians and other minorities make up only 2%.

Although job interviews are a well-established management prerogative, research has shown that they are notoriously unreliable predictors of successful choices. Even at entry level, most individuals who make hiring decisions are white males; the higher the job level, the more this is likely to be the case. Apart from this, the pay differential between white men, white women, and people of color persists. In 1993, for every dollar a white man earned, an African American man made 74 cents, a white woman 70 cents, a Latino man 64 cents, an African American woman 63 cents, and a Latina 54 cents.

Moreover, the Urban Institute has documented the rampant nature of discrimination in the workplace. Sending equally qualified African Americans and whites to apply for the same jobs, they found that in nearly a quarter of the cases, whites moved further through the hiring process than blacks. The institute likewise found that whites received 33 percent more of the interviews and 52 percent more job offers than equally qualified Latinos. Even when African Americans and Latinos are hired, they are promoted and paid less.

Unlike both these groups believe affirmative action has not made much change in America. equal opportunity for the blacks who are the chief most goal of affirmative action is still a dream in various colleges and job places. Non-white students still find difficulty in getting admission and they are also found to be subjected to discrimination in certain fields. Affirmative action has not brought any significant progress in equality and non-white business owners still find no progress any progress compared to the white groups. Moreover, unemployment rate is very much prevalent in black population even though affirmative action is said to be upholding them. Black people are also found to work in low quality work environments and are mostly given low-paying labor intensive jobs.

According to Chappell “Few can argue that racism is still rampant in awarding contracts, jobs, and educational opportunities, even though it’s been proven beneficial to have people of different races with different ideas and different experiences working toward the same goal” (Chappell, 1995). Black minorities are still negatively privileged compared their white counterparts in all the major fields. The job chances for black people are still bleak though not completely hopeless.

All this makes us doubt whether affirmative action has served its purpose. It is time to realize that in real life, the legacy of unfairness is not always so tidy and affirmative action contributed very little to solve these problems. Factual claims prove that both these groups are wrong in their opinion. However it is very obvious affirmative action has failed completely and has not served its purpose. It just initiated some unwanted arguments and problems.

“A Question of Fairness” Ladies Home Jorunal, March 1996, p 17-20.
Boston, Thomas. “Ready, Aim, Fire” Black Enterprise. March 1996, p 24.
Chappell, Kevin. “What They Don’t Tell You About Affirmative Action” Ebony August 1995, p 6-12.
“Clinton’s Focus on Diversity” U.S. News and World Report. March 20, 1995, p. 42.
Cooper, Matthew. “Affirmative Action on Ever-Thinning Ice.” American Enterprise, Janurary/February 1996, p. 27-33.
Dundul, Tom. “Affirmative Action.” Working Women, October 1995, p 39-43.
Lavery, Mark. “Down but Not Out.” Black Enterprise, September 1995, p15.
Lubman, Sarah “Campus Admissions” Wall Street Journal, May 16, p81.
Rilland, Ralph. “The Jobs of the Future”. Pittsburg Business Times, April 1996, p72-81.
“Women’s Answer to Special Preferences Not All Affirmative” Business Journal, May 1995, p6.

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